4: Evidence

This page discusses why evidence is important to inform cultural development planning, and how evidence can be obtained and used.

Evidence-based decision making and practice is increasingly important in all areas of public policy and service delivery. Cultural development should be no different. The body of literature this field can draw from is modest, but growing, and there is much potential for professionals to operate in informed and strategic ways informed by evidence.

Evidence can assist us to develop objectives and activities that will effectively address our goals. Underpinning each goal in our Council Plan is a situation that needs to be addressed. To find evidence that will assist us, we need to consider four questions:

  • Evidence about the cause or origins of the situation: what do we know about the cause or origins of this situation, either in our area or elsewhere?
  • Baseline: where are we now in relation to this situation?
  • Evidence about the solution: what initiatives have been effective previously in addressing this situation? 
  • Evidence about processes: what processes have contributed to change (either positive or negative) in previous initiatives? 

There are three types of evidence that can assist us to address issues in the context of cultural development planning:

  • practice knowledge: what we, or others, know from our practice, or lived experience, about an issue,
  • research: other people’s published work that relates to this issue,
  • data: data that is relevant to this issue. This might be existing data or data we collect ourselves about our work.

Community consultation.

In much local government planning, community consultation is undertaken at the beginning of the planning process, without well thought through reasons for doing it, or well considered outcomes sought. Often community consultations for cultural development planning involve residents discussing activities that they would like to do, and the Council to support. In this Framework, we recommend that community consultation, if it is used at all, be undertaken only at this point, as an evidence-gathering exercise. It could tell us where we are now, or the desired future that our residents are looking for, in relation to any particular community issue.

Community consultation can function as a form of evidence collection, to inform decision-making and confirmation of approaches. CC can ‘work’ for both the consulter and the consulted. It can bring new levels of expertise and information to the consulter, in a dynamic, cost-effective and integrated way. It can make the consulted feel that they are being listened to, that their opinions matter, and that they can be involved in decision-making that affects them (Carson & Gelber, 2001, p. 4).

To find evidence to support your cultural development planning, the following steps are required:

Action Step 4a: Consider the evidence about the cause or origins of the issue

The first step is to find evidence about the cause or origins of an issue, either in our area or elsewhere, that can inform us. We can look first in our Council Plans or other strategic documents, as Council is likely to be paying attention to these issues. Read more

Action Step 4b: Establish the baseline.

We need to understand where we are now in relation to our goal. Read more

Action Step 4c: Consider the evidence about initiatives that can address the issue.

We need to know what initiatives have been effective in addressing this issue or problem previously. To find these, decide on keywords to search that will address the question. Search for published research that include those keywords. We look particularly for outcome studies- articles that address the issue and offer some information about a solution. When we find a relevant article, … Read more

Action Step 4d: Consider the evidence about processes.

We need to know what processes have contributed to change (either positive or negative) in previous initiatives. Consider what a piece of evidence tells us about processes of change: What happened within this initiative that seemed to be a causal factor in the change? What do the authors recommend? This will help us think about what might be done to address a similar issue.


Other resources

More resources about finding and using evidence are provided here


Carson, L. & Gelber, K. (2001). Ideas for Community Consultation. Sydney: NSW Department for Urban Affairs and Planning.